Education Minister Peter Fassbender addresses students at the official opening of Goldstone Park Elementary

Little movement as school strike starts

Education Minister Peter Fassbender says teachers' union could be called on to pay benefits if school disruption continues

The provincial government is so far holding off on a threat to try to force the B.C.Teachers’ Federation to pay $5 million a month to cover the cost of its members’ benefits in response to their limited job action.

That possible financial weapon was broached earlier in the month by negotiators with the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association and Education Minister Peter Fassbender said it remains an option, particularly if the union escalates its tactics.

“The BCTF has said they’re taking this action to put pressure on us,” Fassbender said Thursday in an interview. “We may need to add some commensurate pressure to the BCTF if we find we’re not getting any solid options from them.”

The union has demanded pay hikes estimated at 13.5 per cent over three years, while the government has offered 6.5 per cent over the first six years of an intended 10-year deal.

Fassbender said the BCTF has made some movement in negotiations, but not a significant amount.

He expressed disappointment that despite continued talks the union opted Wednesday to begin its first-stage strike action – restricting administrative duties and supervision of students outside of class time – a move that has prompted several rural districts to cancel recess.

The BCPSEA had notified the union any strike action could trigger a call for it to cover health and welfare benefits for B.C.’s 40,000 teachers, estimated at $5 million a month.

“I don’t want to inflict pain on anybody,” Fassbender said. “But there are tools available to government as there are to the union.

“I don’t think we want to put out any threats but by the same token we need to ensure that we have stability in the classrooms. That’s our goal.”

BCTF president Jim Iker said he doubts the Labour Relations Board would approve a request ordering the union to pay benefits, noting a similar effort to make the union pay 15 per cent of wages was denied in the last teachers’ strike.

“We would see that as retaliatory and punitive for them to even think about or threaten that the union pay the cost of the benefits when teachers are in the classroom working as hard as they normally do with students,” Iker said.

Iker said it is the government that has not moved much off its position, including a refusal to bargain smaller class sizes and more access to specialist teachers.

“Our hope is we can get this deal done by the end of June and not be going into September still at the bargaining table.”

Overshadowing the labour dispute is last year’s B.C. Supreme Court ruling that the province must restore class size and composition to what existed in 2001.

The province has appealed the decision, saying it would impose enormous costs and disrupt programs.

Waiting until the fall for an appeal court ruling would be unfortunate, said Dan Laitsch, an associate education professor at SFU.

“It really is kind of an all-or-nothing case,” Laitsch said. “They’re playing a fairly high stakes poker game because either side could lose big depending on the outcome of the appeal.”

Ideally, he said, the two sides would recognize it’s too risky to wait and instead craft a settlement that doesn’t subject schools to a months-long strike action.

Laitsch said budget shortfalls now surfacing at many districts mean the province will be under pressure to find more money for the school system regardless of the outcome of the teachers’ dispute.

 

Just Posted

BC Wildfire crew rescues lost puppies

They were just leaving the Monashee Complex of fires when they found the cutest creatures.

Casual memberships now available through the Kootenay Carshare Coop

The Kooteany Carshare Cooperative is now offering a new casual membership. Waving… Continue reading

Sister Says playing Saturday at Revelstoke Summer Street Fest

Canadian siblings bring their soulful indie-pop sound to Grizzly Plaza

Ministry denies request for air quality monitoring in Revelstoke

Revelstoke City Council’s request that an air quality monitoring system be re-established… Continue reading

City of Revelstoke and CSRD reach fire protection agreement

A new fire protection agreement has been negotiated between the City of… Continue reading

UPDATE: Air quality improves slightly

Breathing conditions are improving, though still not ideal

Evacuation alert for Dark Lake Valley area

There are 21 properties are affected

B.C. team stays alive in Little League World Series after another nail-biter

Surrey-based squad scored a 6-4 win over Mexico reps in Williamsport on Monday

Kids, seniors at risk as smoke from distant fires hangs over parts of B.C.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control says children’s lungs don’t fully develop until about age 10

B.C. mother charged in 7-year-old daughter’s death appears in court

The 36-year-old mother, of Langley’s Aaliyah Rosa, has been charged with second-degree murder

Troops heading to Lumby/Cherryville to lend a hand with wildfires

Canadian Armed Troops expected to be in the area by the end of the week

Thieves target tires and rims in Shuswap

Salmon Arm RCMP report two recent incidents, a van used in one theft was stolen in Surrey

VIDEO: Teen soccer phenomenon Alphonso Davies to visit B.C. kids camp

The 17-year-old Vancouver Whitecap player is one of the youngest players in MLS history

25-year-old Edmonton man pronounced dead on Shuswap Lake houseboat

Sicamous RCMP deem death to be non suspicious, BC Coroners Service investigating

Most Read